The Journey of Living the Dash
Lord may your light shine through me, in the words that I have to share, and stir in the heart of those gathered here this morning, what purpose you have for each of us. Amen.
It comes as no surprise to anyone that today is known as the 1st Sunday after Christmas.
A day that has become known as one of the “Low Sundays”
The Sunday after Christmas and after Easter are the two “Low Sundays” of the year
With all the excitement that the high holidays bring
- The follow up to that, is a naturally… a let down
- A time of recuperation
It is certainly understandable that the Sunday following Christmas will be a low Sunday
But it is precisely at these “low days” of the year, where how you live out your life in faith really characterize your “relationship with Christ” - our Lord and Saviour
These are the days of character building
It reminds me of a billboard that I used to pass by most days when I lived in Hamilton - it said:
6am practices lead to 7pm games
Not that we are not involved in “competing” where what we do results in a trophy
But we are training
We are conditioning
We are journeying along a path with a goal in vision
That goal is a “life in Christ”
And the vision is for both the journey and the outcome
As it is written in the Lord’s prayer - “on earth - as it is in heaven”
The readings for the day are ideal for this particular day and this time of the year
The last Sunday of the year - marking an ending
But also the first Sunday after we celebrate the incarnation - God coming as Emmanuel
- God with us
Time when we think about Beginnings and endings
- and how we will live…
“all the life in the middle”
This reminded me of a time long ago, grade 9 science class to be exact…
I know that we have a lot of teachers in this church, but occasionally, school can be boring
And my friend with a slightly dark humour passed a note to me during one of these boring moments
It was folded and the front cover read something like this:
Enclosed in this booklet you will find the whole story. The ups and downs, the triumphs and failures
The loves and the love lost. Schooling, career victories
The heartaches and pain and the great accomplishments
All to found in this booklet… please open up
And when I opened up the folded piece of paper it had written simply…
1970 – (dash) 2050
And so on these days of character building when we consider “all the life in the middle”
Beyond my friend’s humour, maybe consider this poem by Linda Ellis titled “The Dash”
I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone,
from the beginning…to the end.
He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.
So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?
Today is not merely a ‘low Sunday’ a day of duty for the faithful - but a day for considering what God is calling you to be in your time marked by a dash
With that let’s consider the readings for today
It has been observed that the entire book of Luke is structured as a journey, as Jesus travels from Galilee to Jerusalem, repeatedly, in important stages in His life
As a Baby - then young adult - finally His adult ministry
This is no accident, Luke arranged the material to communicate his message.
This suggests that the journey in Luke is more than just a physical journey, and the setting is more than geographical.
Our Gospel reading from Luke today tells part of the story of the greatest gift the world has ever seen
The miracle baby - Jesus - born of a virgin
Tells the story of how Mary and Joseph made an annual pilgrimage - as usual – scripture reports
This time with a 12 year old Jesus who stays behind and…
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers(Luke 2:46,47)
It is in the 13th year of Jesus life that we have only this glimpse into his upbringing in Jewish culture.
During the 13th year a boy went through a Bar Mitzvah and was considered an adult for the purposes of accountability and responsibility under the law
As now, a legal adult, we see Jesus learning and answering questions
Luke also plays with the word father
For the first time Joseph is referred to by Luke as father not as Joseph
This is done because I believe he wants to show the contrast and the power of Jesus’ statement
“I must be about my Father’s business”
This is a radical call ‘for all of us followers of Jesus’ to a discipleship that unfolds from being "about our Father’s business"
Let us all be about our Father’s business!
The Old Testament reading tells of Samuel who was a miracle baby
His mother Hannah was one of two wives of Elkanah, and she was unable to get pregnant
One year on the annual pilgrimage to the Temple, she prayed to God that if she became pregnant that she would dedicate the child to God
God bless her with Samuel and after being weaned he was dedicated to God and raised in the temple by Eli the priest
Samuel became an incredible figure in Ancient Jewish and Christian history
As the last of the “Judges” that ruled Israel
The one that choose (guided by God) both their first King – Saul, and their greatest King – David - King David who is the patriarch of the messianic line
And of course ancestor of Jesus
….Our OT reading today closes with
Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.
Also our Gospel reading today closes with
Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in divine and human favor
In both stories we have:
A miracle baby - a gift from God
A devoted religious yet humble family
An annual pilgrimage
A child in the temple
- in service for others
being discipled - trained - conditioned - growing
both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.
Samuel, one of the greatest figures of Christian history was taught
And grew in faith
Jesus, God in the flesh was taught
And grew in wisdom and stature
God, through the writers of scriptures, sends us a clear message
….All creation is on a journey …
We are all in need of being taught - being discipled
Even the giants of our faith were once discipled
What an incredible message for a time of Beginnings and endings
But most importantly for how we will live the dash - “all the life in the middle”
It has been said that “it takes a community to raise a child”
And the church is the special community in which God “is the author”
We are all on a journey
A journey disciple-ed in community
Being disciple is a daunting challenge, where shall we look to be instructed on what to do?
We can look no farther than to Colossians - our New Testament book for that answer
It is set up earlier in the letter and I will read from Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase “The Message” which I believe captures it beautifully and powerfully
From Colossians 1
“We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen.
We look at this Son and see God's original purpose in everything created.
For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels
--everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.
He was there before any of it came into existence
and holds it all together right up to this moment.
Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe-
- People and things, animals and atoms-
- get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies,
All because of his death,
His blood that poured down from the Cross
You don't walk away from a gift like that!
You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust,
Constantly tuned in to the Message,
Careful not to be distracted or diverted
There is no other Message-
- Just this one.
Every creature under heaven gets this same Message.
And in closing let us consider God’s instructions for us on how to live a “new life in Christ” from today’s Colossian’s passage (also from The Message version)
Consider these words as I recite them to you
Allow them to challenge you
Allow them to comfort you
Allow yourself to experience what God is calling you to live… in your dash
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you:
compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.
Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offence.
Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.
And regardless of what else you put on, wear love.
It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other.
None of this going off and doing your own thing.
And cultivate thankfulness.
Let the Word of Christ --the Message-- have the run of the house.
Give it plenty of room in your lives.
Instruct and direct one another using good common sense.
And sing, sing your hearts out to God!
Let every detail in your lives words, actions, whatever
Be done in the name of the Master, Jesus,
Thanking God the Father every step of the way.
It is that ….. That we are… to live…. to grow… to teach ….to disciple others into
It is that…That we are baptized into
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.
And be thankful - Amen